Arts Grounds Celebrates the New Academic Year and Community

August 31, 2009

August 31, 2009 — About 40 members of the Cavalier Marching Band played Friday evening as University of Virginia students and faculty climbed the hill from the Drama Building and clambered down the stairs from the Architecture School, Art Museum, Fayerweather Hall and Old Cabell Hall, and strolled over from Ruffin Hall.

All gathered on the patio outside Campbell Hall at the heart of the "Arts Grounds" to kick off the new academic year and to celebrate the University's arts community.

The event, dubbed "Playing the Space," consisted of progressive events – each sponsored by a different department – to "give the Arts Grounds a character, both socially and intellectually," said Craig Barton, chairman of the Department of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, who was one of the organizers.

"This event marks the space," he said.

Vice Provost for the Arts Elizabeth Hutton Turner declared, "This is a first. If this is playing the space, let the games begin."

Turner and band director Bill Pease flanked the line of students and faculty as they swayed arm-in-arm and sang to "The Good Ol' Song."

The marching band, part of the McIntire Department of Music, will be the newest member of the University arts community to physically join the Arts Grounds. The band, now entering its seventh year, will move into a new rehearsal hall on the north side of the Arts Grounds. Construction of the structure, funded in part by a gift from Hunter Smith, is expected to begin this fall.

"We're excited about it because our students do more than play in a band," Pease said.

After performing, band members joined others already milling around Ruffin Hall to take in the faculty art show and enjoy refreshments.

Sculpture professor Bill Bennett and students were still making last-minute additions to his work in the faculty show, titled "Omphalos," Greek for "navel of the world," a myth common to numerous cultures. The exhibition is the first by the faculty in the building, which opened just days before classes started last fall.

"It's our coming-out party," studio art chairman Dean Dass said. "We criticize the students' work all the time, so now our feet are to the fire."

First-year student Gracie Terzian took in the exhibit. She has a wide interest in the arts and is enrolled in a drawing class with studio art faculty member Elizabeth Schoyer. Terzian, who plans to declare drama as her major, enjoyed seeing her professor's work and learning about what inspires the individual artists.

"It's great to see how big the arts community is," she said.

Jessica Brown, a fourth-year architecture major, noted that the event was helping to unify the school with the other arts. "We're not separate," she said.

Graduate architecture student Alex Garrison echoed those sentiments. Intrigued by work that studio art students are doing in the metal shop, he hopes opportunities open for explorations across disciplines.

Looking out over the grassy lawn, Lawrence Goedde, art historian and chairman of the McIntire Department of Art, praised the evening's celebration. "The Arts Grounds buildings create a quad. Tonight we are beginning to build a community in the arts."

He added that having opportunities to meet and interact and "simply get to know each other" will lead to "cross-fertilization" among arts disciplines – something he has already witnessed within the studio art faculty in their first year in Ruffin Hall. Its open plan allows for display of artwork both in the gallery and on the walls flanking the halls.

Such interdisciplinary work has taken place informally over the years. Looking to the future, Turner said, "This will lead to cross-curricular activities. We're not only going to play together, we're going to work together."

But time to play was not over yet. The evening's celebration concluded with a dance party hosted by the School of Architecture.

The organizers will continue to work together to help pollinate cross-fertilization and build community across disciplines with co-sponsored events monthly through the year.